There was the following paragraph toward the end of the article written by Maureen Dowd that came under the headline, “Thanks Obama” in July 30 New York Times:

“He argued that there is no choice but to support Hillary against a “self-declared savior” like Donald Trump, perhaps forgetting that Obama was once hailed as such a messiah that Oprah introduced him in 2007 as “the one,” and it became his moniker.”

I’m curious to know what “the one” means as a President Obama’s moniker likening him to a messiah, because the word – “the one” is just the one, and can be applied to anything like saying "he is the one I trust on," and doesn’t sounds particularly cute and impressive to me.


After posting this question, I found the definition of “the One” as 4ɑ.God under the heading of the word, “one” in Readers Plus English Japanese Dictionary published by Kenkyusha Publishing, but I don’t find the same definition, “God” in either of Oxford English Dictionary or Cambridge English Dictionary.

I’m still curious to know whether the usage of "the One" for comparing a contemporary person - no matter how great he or she is - to God is common practice among native English speakers or not.


3 Answers 3


This is the video in question.

She was referring to a fictional character Jane Pittman from the novel The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. (Wikipedia)

SparkNotes says:

Jane opens the final section of the novel with a theoretical discussion about how people have always been searching for "the One" who will save them. This search existed even in the times of the Old and New Testament. The elders on the Samson Plantation search for the "One" with each new child who is born. Finally, they believe that a boy named Jimmy Aaron might be the "One." Jimmy was born to Shirley Aaron, although the identity of his father is not known. When Shirley Aaron moves to New Orleans in search of work, Jimmy's great aunt Lena raises him with help from some of the elders, including Jane.

Therefore Oprah names Obama "the One" in an attempt to assign him the role of the next Messiah as prophesied in the Bible.

  • 4
    I think it's more likely she's referring to "The One" as popularised by the massively successful "The Matrix" film franchise. Same implication anyway - just that I think this is the more likely source, or at least the allusion that will strike a chord with most "common people".
    – Deepak
    Jul 31, 2016 at 6:12
  • @Deepak ~ YES, of course, now that you mention it it all seems clear now! :D
    – user180089
    Jul 31, 2016 at 6:12
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    The rally in the video took place in the month prior to the South Carolina Democratic primary. Obama was "the one" Oprah wanted SC Democrats to pick. If you think she meant he was a literal messiah, you're in company with the folks here: youtube.com/watch?v=oF3U7XTKJCw.
    – deadrat
    Jul 31, 2016 at 9:28
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    @Deepak Did you watch the video? It's absolutely clear that she's referring to this novel ("I do believe that today I have the answer to Miss Pitman's question") and not to The Matrix. And why invoke The Matrix at all, when the concepts of Messiah is several thousand years older and culturally more prominent. (And, concurring with deadrat's comment, I don't think she was using that language to refer to a literal Messiah.) Jul 31, 2016 at 11:52
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    @deadrat ~ I can't know what Oprah truly meant (no one can know that), but the truth is that she has a history of religious fundamentalism, she quoted a book about slavery and the lack of a true hero for black Americans just like the Jews never had a true hero, and she quoted the book in a way that appealed to the sentiments and biases of religious black Americans. If that's not improper politics then I don't know what is. The proof is in the pudding.
    – user180089
    Jul 31, 2016 at 18:40

Its probably worth observing that Obama might have been just another president to most of the US, but to the black community the very fact that it was a black man who was entering the white house was a miracle for a people for whom proper suffrage really only happened in the 1960s, and for whom slavery was (As one commedian put it) "Two 80 year old women, back to back" ago. Now how much of that revolutionary potential has panned out, thats one for the historians to squabble over. But for a moment there, black america had made a remarkable achievement, and indeed for that achievement, President Obama was "the one".


I am surprised that no one has mentioned the following definition of The One:

....the only person on earth you are meant to be with. soul mate and best friend

The only source I could find for this is, unfortunately, The Urban Dictionary.

I remember seeing this phrase several times in books, specifically:

Aline is The One.

in The Spy Wore Red: My Adventures as an Undercover Agent in World War II by Aline, Countess of Romanones. The speaker was her future father-in-law, speaking to her future husband. Sorry, I do not have a link for the sentence, just for the author.

I suggest that Oprah was loosely using the phrase in this sense. Obviously she did not mean she wanted to marry (then) Sen. Obama; she meant she entrusted herself and the country to him. No one should be surprised at a bit of hyperbole in a political statement.

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